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Wednesday, 4 July 2012


Hello and welcome to another thrill packed edition of 'Paul watches something and waffles about it it to no real point until he gets bored.' This week, Jekyll.

At some point over the course of the last several years I managed to convince myself that I had seen most of Jekyll and missed the finale. Then I watched it on DVD and realised that what I had in fact actually seen was one episode. Not really sure what happened there. Perhaps I've gone insane and no-one thought to tell me.

Leaving aside the question of whether I need to start checking for hairs on my palms, the good thing about this little piece of self delusion is that rather than having one episode of brand spanking new Steven Moffat sci-fi goodness to indulge in, I had five. And five episodes of Moffat sci-fi is pretty much akin to Christmas, that year your Mum won the lottery and your Dad got a huge bonus and your Gran decided to spend Grandads life insurance payout on the kiddies, cos "you can't take it with you, sweetie."

What I'm saying is, it's a good time.

The basic plot of Jekyll is nothing massively original, at least at first; it really is just Jekyll and Hyde in the modern day. That doesn't stay the case for long though because, of course, if the plot was just a rehash of the original there would be little point in doing it. Instead Moffat, as he and Mark Gatiss would do (with much greater commercial and critical success) years later with the Sherlock Holmes mythos, adds twists, turns, and new elements aplenty to his modern take. Where this differs from Sherlock though, is that this isn't an adaptation. It's a sequel. Of a sort. Kinda.

I know that in TV terms Jekyll is ancient having been made, ruddy hell, 5 whole years ago, but I'm not gonna spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it. Especially since it's on sale in HMV for £3 (hint hint). Unfortunately, that means I can't rave about what that 'kinda' means. Suffice to say, it's a clever little twist, it leads to an even cleverer twist, and then things twist around a bit more, and then a twist happens. And it ends on a twist. Or 2. And I'm not even including the ridiculous, laugh out loud false opening to one particular episode; it's very very cheeky, and could have gone massively wrong, but you'll love it.

I'm a Moffat fanboy though, so my opinion is perhaps not worth as much as that of someone less biased; or as I like to call it, more wrong; and to be honest the show seems not to have achieved much in the way of praise. Certainly, the lack of a second season, coupled with the fact that everyone I talk to seems never to have heard of it, tells me it's perhaps not so well regarded as all that. But I love it, and that's all that matters. So nyah! Also, I'm allowed to be excited for no other reason than I can finally tick the show off in my massive 'To Watch' file, which never seems to get any thinner. The swine.

Anyway, to the cast. James Nesbitt plays Jekyll-alike Tom Jackman and his initially un-named (later to take the name Hyde) alter ego is played by...James Nesbitt as well. It's a brilliant transformation, almost entirely achieved through movement and intonation; a wig is the extent of the make-up involved. I've never been a massive fan of Nesbitt, mainly because he has never really appeared in anything I'd like to watch rather than any active dislike of his work, but he's won me over here.

It's not his show alone though, and he is ably assisted by a pretty bloody good support cast. The one who got all the pre-launch buzz was of course Michelle Ryan, ex of Eastenders and soon to be Bionic Woman, who plays the psychiatric nurse Jackman hires to help him manage his condition. They'll tell you it's because she was an up and coming star in the making. I'll tell you it's cos she's hot.

And of course, who can forget the legend that is Wedge, Mr Denis Lawson himself. Lawson plays Jackman's best friend, and boss. With a smart line in sarcastic humour and a self deprecating air of 'taking it on the chin' when the jokes on him, he and Nesbitt share an easy chemistry that makes every scene they share a joy. But this is Denis Lawson we're talking about,  and as his role increases we see him steal any number of scenes. The man is class. (His attempt to fire a gun is one of my favourite scenes of the series. Seriously laugh out loud funny).

Jackman's bizarre behaviour has of course not gone unnoticed so it's only a matter of time before someone decides to do a little digging. Enter private eyes Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar, a pairing that is an absolute joy to watch together. Their chemistry is as seemingly natural as Nesbitt and Lawson's and I have no doubt that had this story been written from a slightly different angle, a sci-fi/horror detective show with these two would have worked like a charm. I'd watch it. You never know, we could still see it; I mean, it's not as if Moffat is busy at the minute or anything.

The villains of the piece, intent on harnessing Hyde for their own nefarious ends and hang the consequences to Jackman, are led by Paterson Joseph. (See, I told you this was a stellar cast). His American accent leaves a little bit to be desired; although I think that may have been intentional; but his smarmy, ultra confident 'we own the world' shtick always amuses, even when he's at his most evil, and trust me when I tell you that he gets evil.

Which just leaves Gina Bellman. Now, as much as it pains me to say this, I don't think Bellman is up to this. She plays Jackman's wife; a role which becomes pretty important as his enemies start to use his family against him, as well as in... other ways; and unfortunately never quite manages to convince us of their relationship. We're told that they are soul mates, that they're a love story for the ages, but we never feel it. Hers is a slightly too stiff performance, even in the sex scenes, or when she is required to almost break under pressure. She gives the impression of nothing so much as a drama student doing emoting exercises; there's nothing behind the eyes, no soul to the performance. It's a shame, and could easily have damaged the show, where she not carried so ably by those around her.

In the end the show is too good, the material too strong, the rest of the cast too talented; there is no question of one weak link dragging it down. It's never going to be regarded as a classic of the genre, and I'm not so mired in hero worship as to suggest that it should be, but I'd say it's definitely up there with the best of the BBC's post Dr Who revival glut of telefantasy efforts. If it wasn't for Moffat's current job, I'd be crying foul that we never got a second season. As it is though, I don't really think we can complain.

Of course, now that Jekyll is done I have to go back to waiting with the rest of you for the new series of Doctor Who for my Moff fix. In the meantime, what shall I be filling my empty little head with? Well, I'll tell you.

Now, where's that waterproof teabag?

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